Plymouth Roller Derby: Bout Against Cancer Fundraiser

By Matt Thomas

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

I love roller derby. It’s chaotic. Its participants sport names like D’eva D’estruction, Hairazor and Tim Karsmashian. Its matches are called bouts. Commentators crack wise with each other, ‘what’s he doing? Blocking with his head, apparently’, while heavy metal blares out of the PA. The preferred look for skaters, refs and fans alike is a crazy-quilt blend of skulls and neon. It’s like track and field crossed with boxing, sort of, and it all happens on roller skates. What’s not to love?

As I said, I’m a big fan, so it was with no small amount of anticipation I made my way to the Sports Dome at Hele’s School in Plympton, on November 18th, for the Bout Against Cancer, an annual charity event presented this year, for the first time, by the Plymouth City Roller Derby Team.

Hosted by a different team every year, the Bout Against Cancer raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support as well as a local charity nominated by the host team. PCRD’s nominated charity this year was the Plymouth & Cornwall Cancer Fund.

Made up of four separate bouts, the Bout Against Cancer was a friendly, so it gave participating skaters from different league teams the opportunity to skate side-by-side on teams made up for the day to represent various local businesses who sponsored the event. As for participating skaters, there were 90 of them, or, as Av’Er Maria, skating ref and PCRD marketing volunteer put it, ‘720 wheels’, from teams across the Southwest and as far away as Newcastle, Birmingham and Bournemouth. There was even an Irish skater on hand who’s skated for his country in international events.

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin

The first game of the day was the juniors, followed by a co-ed game, a beginners game, and to cap off the bout, the advanced women in the afternoon. I arrived as the co-ed match was underway, and entered the sports dome to see a skater called Block Rocking Beast behind a wall of refs, being attended to by one of the paramedics on hand to deal with injuries. The skaters wear pads, helmets and mouth guards, there are a lot of rules regulating play, and there are seven referees on the track during each game, but roller derby is a full-contact sport, so injuries are an inevitable part of it. Luckily, Block Rocking Beast was not seriously damaged, because within minutes of receiving treatment, he was back in the pack, rocking blocks like a pro.

Men in roller derby as competitors seems to be a recent development in what is historically a women’s sport and one that speaks to a broader ethos of inclusion that was very much a part of the Bout Against Cancer. PCRD skater Storm Cooper, who attended a skating tryout, or, ‘fresh-meat intake’ roughly five years ago and has been hooked ever since, echoed what Av’Er Maria said to me about roller derby being accepting of everyone: women, men, non-binary, LGBTQ, trans-gender and gender non-conforming people, all are welcome. If you can strap on skates, you can take part. In fact, you don’t even have to strap on skates to get involved; there are almost as many roles for non-skaters as there are for skaters. Age isn’t a barrier either. Buzy Babcia, who was ‘off-skates’, on the day of the bout, but there working the door and raffle table, is PCRD’s oldest skater at 57, and got into derby after remembering how much fun she had roller-skating as a kid.

Positive vibe, heavy metal, awesome skating and cake notwithstanding, I had to leave the Bout Against Cancer, but I did so promising to myself to attend more PCRD bouts in the future. As I left, about 20 minutes into the marquee game of the day, the advanced women, I heard a cheer go up from inside the sports dome. No doubt it was #78 Slams, an expert jammer, lapping the pack for another round of points.

The event raised a huge £2118.28, official photographs were taken by Georgie Sabin

For more info about Plymouth City Roller Derby Team, and links to info about roller derby, check out the PCRD website

 

Plymouth Roller Derby: Bout Against Cancer Fundraiser Photo credit Erika Gledhill

‘Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Erika Gledhill

Plymouth Roller Derby : Bout against Cancer Photo Credit Georgie Sabin